K&L Gates requests postponement of county hearing on billboards | News

K&L Gates requests postponement of county hearing on billboards

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A billboard currently standing near the Durham Freeway.
  • courtesy John Schelp
  • A billboard near the Durham Freeway.

K&L Gates, the law firm representing Fairway Outdoor Advertising's quest to change local ordinances on billboards, is requesting a two-cycle (roughly one-month) delay on the public hearing that's currently scheduled for Monday, August 9, said Patrick Byker, attorney for the firm.

The firm and its client are entitled to request the delay under local ordinances, Byker said. The reason for the request is to relieve county commissioners of having to deal with two very contentious issues—changes to the billboard ordinance, and a rezoning case that would allow a controversial development—on the same night, he said. Both are scheduled for public hearings during Monday's meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. A meeting just about that controversial development, 751 South, pushed past midnight two weeks ago. Byker, and K&L Gates, represents clients in both the heated cases.

"I don't think it's fair to county commissioners to have to deal with both on the same night," Byker said. He indicated there was no other reason for asking for the delay, including any benefit to the firm itself, by giving it more time to prepare. Byker said he has not heard a response from the county yet.

The public hearing scheduled for Monday would come one week after Durham's City Council unanimously quashed Fairway Outdoor Advertising's pursuit of ordinance changes that would allow them to erect digital billboards in the city limits. Hundreds of Durham residents and organizations have lobbied against changes to city ordinances that would allow digital billboards in place of the traditional billboard advertisements now scattered throughout the city and county.

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Planning Director Steve Medlin says any request by Fairway or its attorneys must be made directly to the commissioners at their meeting Monday. "Unlike a rezoning request, the text amendment process does not have the administrative deferral capability," Medlin told the Indy in an e-mail "The Board has total discretion on whether to grant the request."

If commissioners grant the request, the hearing could be postponed to the commissioners' meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7 Monday, Sept. 13.

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